Chess Player Banned by Iran over Hijab Joins U.S. Team

A young woman banned from the Iranian national chess team for allegedly attending an international competition without wearing an Islamic headscarf, joined the U.S. team, Washington Post reports quoting an Iranian news agency.

The semi-official ISNA reported that Dorsa Derakhshani refused to wear headscarf, known as hijab, during a February competition in Gibraltar, and joined the U.S. national team. Iranian chess officials have barred two teen siblings from domestic chess tournaments and the national team for crossing some of the religious establishment’s so-called red lines at an international chess event.

The Iranian National Chess Team dismissed 18-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani for appearing at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2017, which ran from January 23 to February 2, without the Islamic head scarf that became compulsory in public places in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Her 15-year-old brother, Borna Derakhshani, was banned for playing against an Israeli opponent at the same event. He was paired up by a computer against Israeli grandmaster Alexander Huzman. Iran has a policy of not competing against Israeli athletes. The country does not recognize Israel and supports Hamas and Hezbollah.

However, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported Monday that the president of Iran’s chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said that Dorsa had in fact changed her national federation to the United States, which was not unusual among chess players. Pahlevanzadeh added that she was not a member of Iran’s national chess team.

“She played for Iran only one time in 2014,” he clarified.

Dorsa left Tehran and moved to Barcelona in 2015 after she received an invitation by a chess club that also supported her studies, according to ISNA. She was awarded the titles Woman Grandmaster and International Master by the World Chess Federation in 2016.

Shohreh Bayat, the general secretary of Iran’s chess federation, said Dorsa was now studying in the U.S., according to Tasnim, another semi-official Iranian news agency.

“(Dorsa) Derakhshani has not become a member of the U.S. national chess team, she just changed her federation to the United States,” Bayat said.